Tragedy has struck again on North Figueroa Street.
Yesterday, traffic violence claimed the life of 17-year-old Andres Perez. Perez was walking to school, apparently not aware that local schools had been closed on account of a terror threat. He was in the crosswalk, crossing North Figueroa Street at Avenue 60 in Highland Park, when a large Los Angeles City Public Works Bureau of Street Services truck made a left turn and ran into him. Perez died on the spot.
Last night, locals hosted a vigil to remember Perez, and to call for safer streets to prevent future deaths.
Sadly, the city of Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) had a plan to make this portion of North Figueroa safer, but in mid-2014 the planned safety improvements were blocked by Los Angeles City Councilmember Gil Cedillo.
This is already the third traffic death on North Figueroa in 2015. On June 26, cyclist Jose Luna was killed by a speeding driver in a hit-and-run crash at North Figueroa and Marmion Way. Then on September 18, pedestrian Yolanda Lugo was killed by driver in a hit-and-run crash at North Figueroa and Avenue 55.
Councilmember Cedillo and broader Los Angeles leadership take the threat of terrorism seriously, while turning a blind eye to everyday traffic violence. LAUSD shut down 900 schools on the threat of terrorism. Metro, LAPD, LAFD, Mayor Eric Garcetti, and others mobilized to support LAUSD efforts. While it is probably important to respond to the threat of terror, the threat of traffic violence is all too real. And deserves a similarly serious mobilization.
Every year roughly 200 Angelenos lose their lives to traffic violence. Compare this to pretty much none lost to terrorism. Can L.A. respond to traffic violence the way it mobilizes against terrorism? Isn’t any loss of life a tragedy worth taking seriously?
Garcetti’s agency-wide Vision Zero initiative seems like a productive first step, but it needs to translate to safer street design if the city is prioritizing preventing future tragedies. LADOT seems to be taking Vision Zero seriously, but on-the-ground safety improvements are not happening quickly enough. Vision Zero’s safety targets needs to be prioritized by reluctant councilmembers like Gil Cedillo, and also across the board in city agencies – from Public Works Bureau of Street Services to the LAPD.